3.1.15

Dressed for success: what to wear for serious sale shopping

Do you give any thought to how practical your outfit is when you're planning to do some serious clothes shopping? A well thought-out outfit can delay getting tired and grumpy in those vicious January sales, so here is the anatomy of a carefully crafted shopping ensemble:

What to wear when you're doing some serious sale shopping
What to wear when you're doing some serious sale shopping

If you're a January bargain hunter then you might have to put up with crowded changing rooms, a lack of mirrors and queues everywhere, but with the right outfit you can make it easier to deal with. 

Jacket:

You're going to spend most of your day inside heated shops in the London January sales. Either you can ignore how you're slowly starting to overheat and wear your coat while you rummage, or drape it over your arm which makes rummaging tiring. Thus you might want to consider under-dressing slightly for the cold, or do what I did and bring something light and compact like a Uniqlo Ultralight Down jacket. It took a lot of convincing for me to get one of these because they don't look great, but I've grown to love it SO MUCH. It squashes into a pouch about the size of a compact umbrella and weighs even less than one. Because I got the collarless one, I also sometimes layer it under other coats for a secret layer of extra warmth. SO PRACTICAL. 
  

Separates: 

I think separates are a better idea than a dress because they give you a more versatile way to try on clothes. Whether you need to see the trousers you're trying on in extra mirror or get an opinion on a shirt from your girlfriend outside the changing room, you can do that with what you're already wearing. If you're trying on a dress you can just swap it for your top and possibly keep your skirt on, which just saves time and effort.

What to wear when sale shopping
Go for separates that are easy to pull on and off.

Knitted cotton jumper: M&S
Pleather skirt with elasticated waist: Primark
Scarf: All Saints

Quick-dress:

Visiting multiple changing rooms throughout the day means that you will want the ability to get in and out of clothes as quickly as possible. That means no buttons, zips, belts, tight jeans or jewellery that catches. The best is a skirt with an elastic waistband, and a stretch/knitted top that you can pull on and go. 

Shoes:

You'll be walking and standing for long periods so it's obvious your shoes should be comfortable. But you'll probably need to take them off frequently too, even if you're not specifically shoe shopping. Lace up boots are therefore the absolute worst thing you could wear. I think ballet flats are the best because you can actually kick them off and step back into them without using hands.

What to wear when sale shopping
Ballet flats are comfortable and can be taken on/off without hands

City tights: Primark
Ballet flats: Clarks

Bag:

Having loads of different shopping bags from multiple stores is not a space efficient or comfortable way to carry your shopping, and you could easily lose track of one of your parcels. In addition, that's a lot of packaging that will go in the bin when you get home. Therefore I always let the cashiers know that I'll be using my own bag (sometimes to their surprise) and put everything in my tote. Because totes don't weigh anything I also carry a second one for overspill. 

A canvas tote bag from New Orleans with the Natchez
A tote is light and you can stuff all of your shopping into it instead of having loads of different shopping parcels

Canvas tote: New Orleans market
This New Orleans tote is a really typical souvenier from the market but I still love it's illustrated style. Being surprised by a wonky calliope concert on the steamboat illustrated here is one of the best memories of my life:



I kept cosy on my walk to the shops with this illustrated scarf from All Saints via a charity shop. All Saints do some really nice prints when they break away from plain black. 

All Saints scarf with animal illustration
Scarf: All Saints
I'd love your tips on how you dress for success in the sales?

26.10.14

Halloween: Pierrot and Zombie Tennis

It's fancy dress time and my advice as always for a budget costume is to start with something unusual that you own and build it up from there. I spent less than £2 for this Pierrot look:


DIY budget Pierrot the Clown halloween costume fancy dress outfit
Budget DIY Pierrot the Clown costume for Halloween
My starting point for this Pierrot the Clown costume was this peach-coloured lace top from Asos which I've had for ages. With this ruff collar I could have gone for any character from the Elizabethan era (the queen herself?) but I needed to buy very little for Pierrot in particular. 


Ruff collar lace top from Asos
Before I did some research, all I knew about Pierrot was that he was popular in the 1980s as a poster on the bedroom walls of tweens and as a hideously kitsch porcelain trinket for the mantelpiece. I had to get over my initial revulsion to commit to this costume, and I did some research to try and see a different side of him. 

I found out that Pierrot is a character from 17th century theatre (Commedia dell'Arte) who is a sad clown, pining for the love of Columbine, who usually breaks his heart and leaves him for Harlequin. From Wikipedia: "he was conceived as a naive character who usually falls for pranks, but was adopted by many movements since then: for the Romantics, Pierrot was not a fool but an avatar of the post-Revolutionary People, struggling, sometimes tragically, to secure a place in the bourgeois world. The Decadents turned him into a disillusioned disciple of Schopenhauer, the Symbolists saw him as a lonely fellow-sufferer, crucified upon the rood of soulful sensitivity, his only friend the distant moon; the Modernists converted him into a Whistlerian subject for canvases devoted to form and color and line. In short, Pierrot became an alter-ego of the artist, specifically of the famously alienated artist of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His physical insularity; his poignant lapses into mutism, the legacy of the great mime Deburau; his white face and costume, suggesting not only innocence but the pallor of the dead; his often frustrated pursuit of Columbine, coupled with his never-to-be vanquished unworldly naïveté—all conspired to lift him out of the circumscribed world of the Commedia dell'Arte and into the larger realm of myth. Much of that mythic quality still adheres to the "sad clown" of the postmodern era." Ok! I can work with that.

All I needed for this costume were black spots for my dress and a cone hat which I made with the following materials:


DIY budget Pierrot the Clown halloween costume fancy dress outfit
Material for the Pierrot costume
I looked up a cone party hat tutorial online and used a large bowl to cut a circle out of some shimmery pink card which is the only thing I spent money on (£2).


Making a cone hat from pink card
For the spots on the hat I painted a cereal box black, traced out circles of three different sizes, and cut these out with pinking scissors. 


Making spots for the cone hat from a cereal box
Spots for the cone hat cut with pinking scissors
DIY budget Pierrot the Clown halloween costume fancy dress outfit
The cone hat before assembly
Once I assembled the cone hat I taped it to an alice band fascinator:


DIY budget Pierrot the Clown halloween costume fancy dress outfit
The cone hat and fascinator it was attached to
I wore a white broderie anglaise pinafore dress over the ruff collar shirt, and use an old scarf to make big black round "buttons" for the front of my dress. The lace and sequin scarf was a free Karma Shelf find which I cut it up into pieces, sewed into round swirls, and pinned to the front of my dress:


Turning a lace and sequin scarf into big black "buttons" for my white dress.
I covered my face in white paint and filled my eye sockets and cheeks with silver glitter. Looking back this wasn't actually the best move because my skin was quite a grey so there was less contrast with the glitter than I was hoping for, and it really didn't photograph well. I wore exaggerated bottom-heavy eye make-up with false lashes on my lower lid to make my eyes look sad and droopy. I gave myself exaggerated sad eyebrows and narrow lips and then the funnest part which was the tears of blood. Altogether it makes for a pretty strange expression, which looks really demented when smiling.

DIY budget Pierrot the Clown halloween costume fancy dress outfit
Budget DIY Pierrot the Clown costume for Halloween

I completed my look with polka dot tights and a Hamlet style skull. My only complaint about this outfit is that I looked miserable the whole night, even when I was smiling. But I consider it a success because it was almost entirely free and DIY.

DIY budget Pierrot the Clown halloween costume fancy dress outfit
Budget DIY Pierrot the Clown costume for Halloween
Mr Zissou is a huge tennis fan and has been told he looks like Roger Federer so he went as a zombie tennis player:

DIY budget Zombie Tennis Player sporty halloween costume fancy dress outfit
DIY budget Zombie Tennis Player Halloween costume
We cut a tennis ball in half and pinned it to his headband on the bottom, and on the top we used a brown clip to attach it to his hair. For the rest of the look all we need was white paint and fake blood.

I wish you thrifty and resourceful success for your costume this year!

17.10.14

Fresh from the earth: visiting a London "Pick Your Own" farm


Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
Visiting a London "Pick Your Own" farm

There may not be a whole lot of fruit that grows in Britain (me and my friend from India can only dream of buying guavas) but let's give credit where credit is due: the strawberries and apples are amazing. I recently found the Abel & Cole Veg Box Companion cookbook on the Karma Shelf (as if the universe had responded to my desire to eat less meat) and read that up until the 1950s when cheaper imported apples showed up, there were around 2000 varieties of apple in the UK. Well, soon after complementing a British person for this as though they were personally responsible for the quality of the apples and strawberries, they suggested I go strawberry picking which was a completely new concept for me. This is not because I am South African but specifically because I am from Joburg where the surrounding country is dry and thorny, where school trips are to the cheetah park and caves with ancient rock-paintings, rather than to lush fruit fields like those kids from the Cape.

Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
Strawberries at a London "Pick Your Own" farm
Pick Your Own farms (PYO as they're known on the street) give you a basket, let you loose in their fields, and let you pay by weight on exit. The catch is that all the PYOs I had seen are far out of London, in the middle of nowhere down long, rural roads (obviously) and renting a car is a faff.

Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
Parkside Farm on the outskirts of London, a Pick our Own farm. Produce of the season.
I was so excited to discover a PYO in London I went that very same weekend. It's called Parkside Farm and it's out in zone 5 so you can still use your Oyster card to get to it. Note if you're going with kiddies, it is 1 mile from Gordon Hill station so be prepared for a short walk.

Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
How cute is this map of different crops
They provide an adorable map of their different crops if you want to be strategic. The farm was really gorgeous and has not only fruit but vegetables too. I was really excited to see where all the crops come from and what they look like when they come out of the ground. I always grew up with a veggie patch in the garden but there are still so many crops I eat on a regular basis that I've never actually seen growing (I could not identify the leaves of a ginger plant for example). It's just nice to feel a bit more connected to your food.

Farmers overalls, coats and boots hung up for the day
Farm life
When you arrive you're given a combination of bags and baskets and if you're lucky you find a trolley too. Then you make your way around the farm and pick what you like. As tempting as it is, you're not supposed to eat in the field before you have paid.

Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
Strawberry field!
The pride of Parkside is their table-top strawberries  which means you don't have to bend down to pick them. I can imagine this must be a pretty labour-saving agricultural innovation.

Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
The pride of Parkside Farm is their table top strawberries which means you don't have to bend down to pick them. 
Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
Strawberry blossom
The fields of fruit and veg were so idyllic I was definitely imagining Beatrix Potter's characters scurrying around, like Benjamin Bunny and Peter Rabbit.

Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
Blackberries
There is a minimum spend of £3 per person which was easy for us to pass, in fact Mr Zissou picked nearly a kilogram of blackberries alone.

Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
Blackberry picking

Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
Blackberries


Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
Blackberry picking
I haven't owned a backpack since I was a teenager but I've gotten much more use out of my Primark back-pack than I expected, it's just really nice to have your hands free on occasions like this, to grab, grab, grab!


Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
Off to explore. Backpack from Primark.
I chose a casual, comfortable outfit for our day on the farm and finished it off with a silly grosgrain bow on my red top by Fever:

Outfit details: Boater hat: Asos Top: Fever Skirt: Topshop Bow: Johnny Loves Rosie Shoes: Vintage
Outfit details:
Boater hat: Asos
Top: Fever
Skirt: Topshop
Bow: Johnny Loves Rosie
Shoes: Vintage
I was looking for a pair of "nude" shoes for quite a while before finding these vintage beauties for a bargain price in Beacon's Closet in New York. They really keep your feet cool in summer too.

Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
Vintage perforated leather shoes from Beacon's Closet in Williamsburg  
How amazing are these plums? They were purple with an amazing blue sheen on them which I've not seen on store-bought plums.

Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
Glowing purple plums
It seemed like a huge waste to leave all these beauties on the floor to spoil but we had more than we could carry or eat.

Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
These plums had an unreal purple glow to them
If I was dressed for the strawberries, then this visitor was definitely dressed for the plums!

Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
Plum picker

Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
Raspberries
I heart it:

Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
Romantic raspberry
I was so proud of our haul and it really gave me a sense of the resources that go into bringing food to our table. After all the effort we went to to select and pick the produce ourselves we were extra careful to plan our meals thoughtfully to get the most out of our fresh ingredients and throw none of them away because of spoiling.

Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
Our haul, each one lovingly picked : raspberries, chard, marrows, beetroot, blackberries, cucumbers,  spinach and onions.

We're also trying to limit our meat and fish consumption to just once per week, so all this veg came at a good time for us. I guess you could call us "weekday vegetarians" because we no longer have meat or most fish on our shopping list, but if we eat out with friends or go to a food festival on weekends we might eat meat. When we do, we really appreciate it and we view it now as a treat rather than as the norm. Even if we could afford to buy non-factory farmed meat from our butcher more often, for us that's not the point. The point is that there is just not enough space on earth for all the farm animals in the world to roam free because demand for meat is just too high. This demand is also taking a terrible toll on the environment, and we're privileged enough to be in a position to modify the way we consume. Of course we are all full of contradictions but this is just a step in our imperfect personal journey.

 
Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
Beetroot straight from the earth
Just like any day-trip to the countryside, I'd highly recommend this as a mini-break for Londoners because it does wonders for your mental health, for me it's like the mental equivalent of a luxurious bath. I'm sure it would also be a fun activity for families judging by all the happy kids I saw tearing around. Be sure to check the crop calender when you plan your visit!

Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.





11.8.14

DIY paper lantern hot air balloon

DIY hot air balloon from a paper lantern and a basket
In the shared laundry room of the apartment block where I live there is a shelf for unwanted goodies. I've mentioned it in many blog posts before and it's affectionately known as the Karma Shelf because you put things that you no longer need there, and pick up other people's unwanted loot. Needless to say I am a HUGE fan. I lie awake at night fantasising about what junk I might find the next day, that I can upcycle into something wonderful.

Examples of things I've found:  Moss, a sailor suit and a wig (all contributing to one Halloween costume). An unpainted garden gnome (blog post pending!). A giant plush toy snake (worn around my neck on a night on the town.) An inflatable (!) zimmer frame.

Recently I found a paper lantern, and then a few days later a little toiletries basket. Amongst all the other random bits I managed to link the two together in my mind for a hot air balloon project.

My bedroom
You won't be surprised to find that I have a stash of loose strings that I save from fancy gift wrap etc, so I had the perfect red and white string for this DIY. Also not surprising is that I have languishing rolls of washi tape for grand DIY plans that have never materialised (thank you Pinterest). This is how I made my hot air balloon:

You will need:

  • Round paper lantern
  • Small basket, about the same size as the base of the lantern. Alternatively cut off the base of a milk bottle?
  • String
  • Thread (for hanging, in the same colour as your ceiling, or clear fishing gut)
  • Washi/decorative tape


Paper lantern, basket, washi tape and string


Instructions:
  1. First make your balloon's mini-bunting by cutting a section of string and folding pieces of washi tape around the string so that the sticky sides close against each other. Cut these little rectangles into a point to form triangular bunting. Space these mini flags out evenly along the string. Attach your string of bunting to one side of the basket or all the way around.                                                                   
    Make bunting from washi tape
  2. Now to attach the basket to the balloon. Thread a string along the top of your basket and attach each corner to the base of the lantern. This step was easy given the type of basket I found. If you use another container like the base of a milk bottle then just pierce four holes in the "basket" and thread through there. Make sure that all four strings are the same length and that your basket hangs evenly and in the centre directly below the balloon.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
    Attached the basket to the balloon with string                                                                                                                                           
  3. Stretch out and open up your lantern and see how the basket hangs. My basket was very lightweight and so the lantern didn't open up properly. I added some stones inside the basket so that it would really stretch the lantern open into a perfect globe.                                           
  4. Now that your lantern  is fully extended, you can apply decorative stripes to the "balloon". Using your roll of washi tape, attach the end to the inside of the base of the balloon. Stick it around the outside and then all the way up to the top. At the top leave a little extra before cutting the piece free; press this over the edge to the inside. The ends of the tape should be hidden on the inside. I followed the natural seems of my lantern with my tape, which is where the paper is glued together to make the globe. Apply the stripes of washi tape symmetrically and remember to keep the lantern fully open and extended.
  5. Attach some thread to the top of the balloon so that you can hang it up. It would also make a nice lampshade (used exactly like the lantern was intended) but I don't have any hanging lamps so it's just randomly flying above the bed.  
A hanging ceramic heart with our initials
I actually added some extra pizzazz in the form of a little heart that hangs under the balloon; it's full-on twee and I wrote our initials onto it. On this theme, here's a hot air balloon painting I bought at Chiswick car boot sale, it was only £10 or £15 which I think was steal:

Vintage hot air balloon painting from a car boot sale
Hot air balloon painting I found at a car boot sale
Vintage hot air balloon painting from a car boot sale
The ascent of Major Farquharson at Worcester
Hot air balloons are so lovely aren't they? I went with my family in a rainbow coloured one in South Africa, just lovely. My friend Roxanne who's even more of a fan of hot air balloons than me (she even goes to the Bristol Balloon Festival) saw the lantern balloon above my bed and it stirred up an old memory for her. She said that she thinks her mom made one of these for her childhood bedroom (#80sDIY), which might have triggered her lifelong love of them. Also, there was a family staying in our apartment while we were on holiday and their favourite part of the stay was this balloon because their baby REALLY loved it and would lie on the bed staring at it for ages. Maybe that baby will grow up to be a hot air balloon devotee too. 

Long-time readers of this blog may remember my old bedroom which was filled with mainly free stuff, even the bed. Here are some more details from my current bedroom at our new place, first this Rob Ryan picture above the bed. It was actually sold at a craft fair for £5 as wrapping paper, and since Rob Ryan himself was there, I asked him to sign it! The fairy lights are super cosy at bed time:

Signed Rob Ryan print on wall with fairy lights
I asked Rob Ryan to sign this print
The bird alarm clock was only £1 from another car boot sale because he is originally from Habitat but is actually missing a segment of his tail which is not at all noticeable. When the alarm goes off he tweets, rocks back and forth, turns his Robocop head from side to side and moves his beak, violently. I LOVE animatronics (I mean, Bubo the golden owl WAS the star of Clash of the Titans) and find it endlessly amusing. Mr Zissou finds it less amusing when it wakes him up in the morning. The copper polka dot pot is an old DIY project of mine which was featured on Design Sponge.

Habitat bird alarm clock with DIY copper polka dot planter and succulent
Animatronic alarm clock from Habitat, DIY planter. Hmmm, not sure why that number looks weird.

Toile du jouy pillowcase on bed
Toile du jouy, a perennial favourite. 
Alarm clack and space invaders
Alarm clock and space invader blocks